Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable energy’

The passing scene: January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Gun Trouble by Robert H. Scales for The Atlantic.

HighAirfare35e18The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any time in American history, and the nation spends almost as much on its armed forces as the whole rest of the world put together.  Yet the USA doesn’t seem to be able to win wars, or even provide troops with a gun that doesn’t jam.

James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that the United States has become a “chickenhawk nation.”  The majority of Americans do not wish to serve in the military and have no real desire to understand the military, so we take the easy way out which is to say, “thank you for your service,” and go about our business.

Military procurement has become a business subsidy and job creation program.  If the USA reduced its military force and weapons spending to what is needed to defend the nation, and nothing else was done, a recession would result.

Infrastructure advances in the rest-of-the-world will blow your mind by james321 for Daily Kos.

We Americans used to pride ourselves on our mega-engineering projects, but now the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

China has opened direct rail service from the China Sea to Madrid.  Switzerland is about to open its 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps.  Italy is soon to start high-speed rail service between Milan and Rome, capable of speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

We Americans don’t even perform maintenance on what we’ve got, and that’s a sign of a society with a fatal loss of concern for its future, just as our military strategy is a sign of a society with a fatal loss of a sense of reality.


Obama’s green energy plan

October 7, 2010

It’s characteristic of the climate of opinion in Washington, D.C., that some of the most constructive actions of the Obama administration were slipped in under the radar, and may not have been enacted if President Obama had made a big deal out of them.

President Obama at Florida solar panel factory

I have in mind the $90 billion appropriated in the economic stimulus bill for investments in green energy.  As we use up the world’s easy-to-get fossil fuels, we will be thrown back on nuclear energy or on environmentally destructive practices such as hydrofracking for natural gas, surface mining for coal and deep ocean drilling for oil, unless there are alternative technologies.  And we want to be able to buy these technologies from fellow Americans rather than from the Chinese, the Scandinavians or other foreigners.

A recent article in Time magazine said that Obama administration hopes to use the simulus money to accomplish the following goals.

1. Lower solar power’s cost 50% by 2015, to put it on par with the retail cost of power from the existing grid

2. Cut the cost of batteries for electric vehicles 50% by 2013 and eventually reduce the sticker price of an electric car to match that of its gasoline-powered counterpart

3. Double the U.S.’s renewable-energy-generation capacity (wind, solar and geothermal) as well as its renewable-manufacturing capacity, by 2012.

And also:

4. Lower the cost of sequencing an individual human genome to $1,000, enabling scientists to map 50 genomes for the same price as mapping just one today

via Recovery Act – TIME.

None of these things are economic “stimulus” as most people understand the word and as the economist John Maynard Keynes advocated.  The idea of a “stimulus” is that when the economy is stalled, you can jump-start it just by getting money into to circulation or creating temporary jobs (it doesn’t matter what).  Unfortunately for this theory, most Americans are so far in debt that if they get a little extra money, they’ll use it to pay off their debt rather than buy goods and services.  It’s good that Americans individually reduce their indebtedness, but it doesn’t make sense to do it by increasing their debt in their capacity as taxpayers.

But the green energy plans are something else.  If they work (a big “if”, of course), they’ll increase the nation’s wealth and pay for themselves.

One of the big engines of economic growth in the past was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, later shorted to ARPA.  It financed a lot of blue-sky research projects which resulted in the development of new technologies and new businesses.  The managers of ARPA realized that military technology required a strong national high technology base, and so they financed a lot of things that didn’t have any obvious military applications.  The Internet and the Global Positioning System came out of ARPA.   Part of President Obama’s plan is an ARPA-E, an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy.